“Hello everyone! How are you all doing this afternoon?”
A chorus of different responses came from around the table. It was a very diverse group, and I shall describe them more fully in the next few paragraphs. Our speaker is about to speak again.
“Without further ado, welcome to the first annual meeting of Extremely Generic Authors!”
Again, a varied response.
“I’d like to start this afternoon with a round of introductions. My pseudonym is Scott Stedlar, and I will be the mediator tonight.”
He looked to his left.
“Philip Holmes. I am representing the law and the breaking of it.”
He sat upright in his chair, wearing a grey tweed jacket, white tee, dark blue jeans and a black newsboy cap. A five o’clock shadow graced his fine jaw. His dark hair was cut short, and he kept glancing distractedly down at his notebook.
“I’m Violet Ember, and I write fantasy, with lots of ancient lore and tall, graceful elves and tiny fairies and lots of oversized spotted mushrooms everywhere.”
She smiled prettily, her pink lips matching her vivd blush. Her hair was in a half undo with braids everywhere. She turned to the woman beside her.
“Juliette Hoffman is my name, but you may all call me Miss Hoffman. Romance is my domain. Thank you.”
She nodded at Scott, not deigning to look at anyone else. Her maroon lips curved into a polite smile. Her black hair was pulled tightly away from her face, fancy, but severe, revealing finely pencilled eyebrows.
“Yukzi Fulgent. Science fiction. Your drink dispensers are remarkably slow.”
He sipped his chilled blue drink through the straw he had neglected to bend. His bald head was shiny and matched the sleek leather outfit he wore.
The next writer tossed her blond curls and smiled slyly as she took off her sunglasses. Everyone gasped. The whites of her eyes were no longer white— they were black. Her smile broadened, revealing black teeth behind her blood red lips.
“I go by Noira Bloodrow.”
“Um, it’s nice to meet you all. My name’s Kelly Hildebrandt, and I write inspirational literature.”
She was younger than the rest, in a comfortable cardigan, tank top, and jeans.
Scott Stedlar nodded. “Well, that’s everyone.”
I never get introduced. I’m just the narrator. But that’s okay; I don’t need a name. I’m good at my job.
“So, today, we decided that we would come up with the most varied piece of writing possible within a limited word count and on the tight schedule of two hours. We’ve used a good bit of time collecting notes, getting settled in, and introducing ourselves, so let’s get on with it. As mediator, I am going to start the story. We have a male character named Jack and a female character named Diane. They are both in their late teens. Jack is rich, Diane is poor.”
Naturally, since everyone present delighted in the generic, we started with two very generic names in a very generic setting.
“Your part in the story can take no longer than ten minutes to compose. You will go in the same order you introduced yourselves. Go.”
Philip Holmes leaned forwards, placing his elbows on the table, palms together, and pressed his fingertips to his lips.
“Our story begins in 1920’s New York. Jack accompanies his father and mother to the grand opening of the first in a new line of hotels. He mingles with the other old names, making small talk and hearing gossip and buttering up anyone who is likely to benefit him in the future. He sees his particular lady friend, Mary, standing near the jukebox and heads over to impress her anew with his charm and wealth. On his way, he sees her father and stops by him first, intending to make some comment about the time and pull out his new gold watch as a fine impression. After he gives the greeting, he reaches his hand into his pocket. The watch and chain are both gone. He swivels around. There is a man who everyone says in a gang boss and no one will dare be anything but polite to. There is a young boy who was somehow allowed to attend the soirée. But there is one of the caterers, straightening up from the floor, looking right at him, tucking something into her pocket.”
“Time. Violet Ember.”
“Oh! Well, as he looks at her, he sees her motion to come to her. He says some polite remark to Mary’s father and goes to the serving girl. He leans against the table but does not look at her as he asks what she wanted and what she has in her pocket. She asks him why he cannot look her in the face. He scoffs, but she reaches up and touches his shoulder. He jerks away but it is too late. The fancy hotel lobby vanishes, and they are surrounded by trees. “Where did you take me?” He demands. “I didn’t take you anywhere,” she says. “It was your watch.” “It’s never done anything like this before!” “Then you must be a really good person, or else you haven’t had it for very long yet.” The trees surround them, and they take on their dryad shapes. “You see these? They are my family.” The winds rustles them, and he can see their faces, smooth and brown and wild and beautiful like her own.”
“Time. Juliette Hoffman.”
“He walks toward her as if seeing her for the first time. He cups his hand under her chin and caresses her cheek. “Diane. You are lovely. How could I not see this before?” She pulls away. “Because you were looking with your white eyes. You need to see with your heart. Come with me.” “How can I trust you?” “Well, if you want to go home I suggest you do as I say.” “Give me back my watch, and I’ll make it home on my own.” She laughs. “No, pretty boy, you won’t.” She turns to walk amid the tree trunks, beneath the swaying branches, and he can do nothing but follow her.”
“Time. Yuzki Fulgent.”
“He catches up to her and tries to snatch the watch from her grasp, but his hand passes right through her own. “What? How?” “You are unworthy. The watch will grant me power you can only dream of.” She flips it open to reveal the tiny gears, then inserted her fingernail and twisted one just a little. Their surroundings disappeared, and they flashed through history, freedom, slavery, peace, war. It was lightning fast, but he could experience each one as clearly as if it were being dowloaded into his brain.”
“But I didn’t get to the future yet!”
“We’re on a tight schedule, Yuzki. It’s your turn, Noira Bloodrow.”
“Just before they get back to the present, everything freezes around him. The shifting worlds pixelate, and Jack can feel the pieces prickling against his skin. “What is going on?” he screams to Diane, but she smiles at him, perfect as ever. He looks around, and he can see his memories floating in tiny cubes all around him. Then his finger tips burns like a laser has cut into it, and he sees it separate into a hundred tiny cubes and begin to float away. He grabs for it, but the rest of his hand disintegrates too.”
“Time. Kelly Hildebrandt.”
“The memories whip past him faster and faster, memories of his life, memories of the sermons he ignored, memories of the poor he had scorned, and one memory that sticks out— of when he blamed an accident on a poor black girl who happened to be nearby at the right time. He gasps and looks up at her. “I’m sorry! I was wrong. You can leave me. I don’t deserve to come back.” Her evil smile from before fades, and she wants to turn away, but she is better than he was. She holds out her hand with the watch and he takes it. They end up back in the forest. “Thank you, Diane. I owe you my life. What can I do to make it up to you?” She smiles a different smile now. “You can be better than what you were. You can learn to see with the heart you were created with.” The end.”
Scott clapped his hands together.
“Well, that went pretty well, I think. Next year again?”
And, reader, I am not even going to tell you what they said, because I don’t like it. Stories shouldn’t always be generic, but they don’t need every genre in there either. It’s a lot of work for me.